Here are updates on a couple of backstops the Nationals have high hopes for heading into 2021. Assistant general manager of player development Mark Scialabba said Israel Pineda has gotten a lot of notice for his power stroke, while 2014 third-round selection Jakson Reetz showed solid progress in 2019 and into the alternate training site this summer.
Israel Pineda, 20
5-foot-11, 190 lbs.
Signed: July 2, 2016
2018 mid-season All-Star in short-season Single-A New York Penn League (Auburn)
101 games for low single-A Hagerstown in 2019
.217/.278/.305, seven homers, 35 RBIs
Key note: No. 14 Nats prospect
“He’s got all the raw ingredients you want in a frontline catcher,” said Scialabba. “He has the feel to hit, can barrel up the baseball, hits the ball on a line, very instinctual at the plate. He is someone that has emerging power down the road. He is still very young and is starting to grow into his body a little bit better. Israel works extremely hard.”
Pineda was one of several players unable to travel back to his native Venezuela early on this summer due to the imposed COVID-19 travel restrictions. So the Nationals placed these players in a hotel near their spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla.
“He was stuck in the hotel and he took care of his body as best he could,” Scialabba said. “He was actually in good shape when he came to the alternate site. That’s going to be the next phase of his development, just kind of filling out, getting those man muscles. He’s done a nice job with that.”
Scialabba said the Nats focused on Pineda’s catching skills at fall instructional league. Pineda has demonstrated excellent defense and an ability to block the ball at the plate.
“Defensively, he is a solid receiver and is improving his receiving skills,” Scialabba said. “Blocking was probably the thing he improved the most this year. Doing a nice job blocking balls in the dirt, especially to his right, and handling a lot of breaking balls from power pitchers that we had at the alternate site.”
Scialabba said the Nats have also been impressed with Pineda’s throws to second base.
“His arm strength continues to show solid average to plus arm strength,” he said. “Accuracy is something that he will continue to work on. He’s still young and it’s not as consistent as we would like him to be. He’s not a finished product yet, but certainly it’s in there. That’s part of the evolution of a catcher is bringing it each day with each pitch and not taking anything off.”
Jakson Reetz, 24
6-foot-0, 205 lbs.
Drafted: Third round in 2014 First-Year Player Draft
2019 MiLB.com organizational All-Star, Single-A Potomac mid-season All-Star
.253/.370/.441 13 HR, 55 RBI in 96 games in 2019, Arizona Fall League invite
Key stat: Slugging percentage jumped 118 points from 2018 to 2019
Reetz was not at instructional league in October, but got a lot of good work in and experience in Fredericksburg, Va., at the alternate training site, catching the Nats’ elite pitchers. Scialabba said Reetz built off his 13-homer performance from 2019.
“Jakson had a really good camp,” Scialabba said. “He started off and he showed power to big parts of the field and had a really strong start to the camp. In 2019, he went to Potomac and to the fall league. He got off to a great start for a week in Arizona and then he hurt himself and unfortunately couldn’t finish up. He was on a path of showing that he is the type of breakout candidate.
“He went to the alternate site, did a nice job handing the staff. He’s at that point now where he is starting to mentor some of these young pitchers because he has seen all these prospects come through our system. He catches the big leaguers in spring training and knows the quality of the stuff about pitch ability, how to sequence and he has improved in that area. He is probably our best catch-and-throw receiver. He is still continuing to develop in all phases. We are high on Jakson as well. We believe the power is real and it’s going to be a big year for him next year.”
Reetz has been assigned to Double-A Harrisburg to begin 2021. There were seven catchers at the instructional league workouts: Geraldi Diaz, Mason Doolittle, Brady Lindsly, Ivan Murzi, Wilmer Perez, Pineda and Ray Torres. Here are my summer updates on Torres and his play in college.